This big grouse is found on heathland and the forest edge over much of the colder temperate areas of Europe and Asia. The male is much bigger than the female - he is called a Black Cock and she is a Grey Hen. The males lek - that is they compete for females on a display ground which is often very traditional.
The males have some white in the wing, and white under tail and lower belly with amazing lyre-shaped curved tail feathers. He also has a red eye- brow. The female is browner and rather dowdy. These birds live mainly on plant material, often from trees and shrubs.
The populations in many areas are falling very quickly and this is not just related to the ecology of their habitat. Many are killed against wires - both transmission lines and of fences - and with big birds at low density these losses are very serious. They were even in the lowland heaths of England until early this century - Surrey, Kent and Sussex. Now confined to mountainous areas and are probably less than 10,000 females left in Britain.
A big black Old World grouse.
Male Female Length 520 mm 420 mm Closed wing 250 mm 220 mm Weight 1250 gms 950 gms
A Bird On! Sketch by Chris Mead
Copyright © 1996 by Jacobi Jayne & Company and Chris Mead